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Myanmar (Burma)
25.09.20
Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary detention of environmental rights defender Mr. Gei Om

MMR003 / 0920 / OBS 106

Arbitrarydetention /

Judicialharassment

Myanmar

September25, 2020

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDHand the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in Myanmar.

Descriptionof the situation:

TheObservatory has been informed by the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency andAccountability (MATA)[1]about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Gei Om, a member of MATA who worksactively on environmental protection and conservation in Chin State. Mr. Gei Omis also a member of the Chin Aung Ta Man (a youth organisation of Chin people),the Chin Civil Society Network, and the Man Eain Working Committee (acommunity-based organisation).

Accordingto the information received, on July 24, 2020, Mr. Gei Om was taken intocustody after a local official in Ohn Village Tract sent a letter of complaintto authorities in Mindat Township, Chin State, on July 13, 2020. The complaintalleged that Mr. Gei Om had spread false news about possible illicit activitiesthroughout Chin villages, was involved in an illegal land dispute settlement in2016, and had been collecting taxes from villages.

Priorto his arrest, Mr. Gei Om helped local community leaders to monitor the impactof a project of model farms to harvest oil seed plants designed by theManagement Committee of Mindat Township. They found out that the localgovernment in charge of the model farms had engaged in illegal logging and thatthe farms had caused environmental damage to the Natma Taung National Park. OnJune 1, 2020, they had sent a previous complaint to the EnvironmentalConservation Department (ECD) of the Ministry of Natural Resource and EnvironmentalConservation (MONREC), which ordered the Forest Department in Mindat Townshipto carry out an investigation into the matter. During a meeting with ForestDepartment officials and two representatives of local communities, Mr. Gei Om,who acted as a negotiator and translator from Chin to Burmese and vice versa,advised the community leaders not to sign documents, which asserted that aninvestigation was carried out and no wrongdoing had been found. Theabove-mentioned July 13 complaint letter of the Ohn Village Tract officialagainst Mr. Gei Om was sent to the Mindat Township authorities following thismeeting, and led to his arrest.

OnAugust 7, 2020, the Deputy Police Chief charged Mr. Gei Om under Section 5 (1)(F) (G) of the Restriction of Movement and Probation of Habitual Offenders Actof 1961 for his participation in the settlement of a land dispute in 2016. Thefabricated charge stemmed from his participation as a community negotiator inthe resolution of a land dispute under a customary dispute resolution mechanismafter the destruction of a village by a landslide in 2015. At the time, thegovernment authorities had authorized the land dispute to be settled accordingto local customs but they subsequently claimed that the dispute was not settledlegally and that Mr. Gei Om should therefore be charged for his involvement init, which the authorities claimed it amounted to inciting conflict.

Aftercharges were pressed, Mr. Gei Om was offered a conditional release providedthat he would not leave Mindat Township and he would report on a bi-monthlybasis to the police for six months to one year, which he refused. If foundguilty, Mr. Gei Om will be prohibited from leaving his township and, if he doesnot comply with this measure of restriction, he could be sentenced to one yearin prison. He is currently detained in Mindat Township.

TheObservatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary detention andjudicial harassment of Mr. Gei Om, which seem to be only aimed at punishing himfor his legitimate human rights work.

Actionsrequested:

Pleasewrite to the authorities of Myanmar asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances thephysical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Gei Om and of all other human rights defenders in Myanmar;

ii. Immediately and unconditionallyrelease Mr. Gei Om and all other human rights defenders in Myanmar, as theirdetention is arbitrary since it only aims at punishing them for theirlegitimate human rights activities;

iii.Put an end to all acts of harassment, including atthe judicial level, against Mr. Gei Om, and all otherhuman rights defenders in Myanmar, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able tocarry out their activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv.Comply with all the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, inparticular with its Articles 1 and 12.2;

v.Ensure in all circumstances respectfor human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses:

· Mr. Win Myint,President of Myanmar; Twitter: @pomyanmar

· Lt. Gen Soe Htut,Minister of Home Affairs; Email: mohamyanmar@gmail.com

· Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi,Minister of Foreign Affairs; Twitter: @MyanmarSC

· Mr. Hla Myint, Chairmanof the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission; Email: mdjcwg13@gmail.com

· Tun Tun Oo, UnionAttorney General; Email: ago.h.o@mptmail.net.mm

· Brig Gen Aung Win Oo,Director General, Myanmar Police Force, Ministry of Home Affairs; Email: mpfserver@gmail.com; epolice@myanmarpoliceforce.org

· HE Mr. Kyaw MoeTun, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative tothe United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Email: mission@myanmargeneva.org

· Embassy of Myanmar inBrussels, Belgium; Email: mebrussels@skynet.be

Pleasealso write to the diplomatic representations of Myanmar in your respectivecountries.

***

Paris-Geneva,September 25, 2020

Kindlyinform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in yourreply.

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) wascreated in 1997 by FIDH and OMCT. The objective of this programme is to preventor remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH andOMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human RightsDefenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Tocontact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals[at]fidh-omct.org

· Tel and faxFIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

· Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] The Myanmar Alliance forTransparency and Accountability is a network of over 400 civil societyorganizations and individuals who work on natural resource governance advocacyacross all states of Myanmar. This entails working on extractive governance andpromoting transparency and accountability of the exploitation of naturalresources and its benefits to the broader public.

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